Pointing the Camera in the Wrong Direction

Thursday I headed out for a long leisurely twenty mile bike ride to Mission Espada and back. At the halfway point on my return, I realized I had broken a spoke. Damn. The third time in two weeks. No doubt because I’m too fat. But the truth is, I’ve lost 20 pounds in the last month and a half. I headed home slowly, trying to ignore the minor wobble. When I dropped it off at the bike shop, the owner muttered that it might be a factory flaw — he’d try and get a new wheel under the warranty. So, instead of waiting a day or two for a repair, now I have to wait for an indeterminate period for a replacement.

Could have at least given me a loaner.

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I’ve been hunting for roadside shrines, those memorials which mark a fatal accident. I’ve a little video project planned for the Contemporary Art Month group show at the Centro Cultural Aztlan. Opening, I believe, July 18. It’ll be about a minute and a half piece on a loop. Nine shrines will be arranged on a grid. I shot six over the weekend. I know where two others are. And George Cisneros gave me directions for about four he knows of on the westside. I’ll try and get them soon.

The ones I took care of Saturday are all on my various southside bike routes. One is just past Mission Espada on Villamain, where the road curves and crosses the railroad tracks. This is the location of the fabled Ghost Tracks.

A quick overview. At some date in the past (never specified) a school bus broke down on the tracks and a train slammed into it, killing all the kids. So, nowadays, people park their cars on the tracks, kill the engine, put it in neutral, and they wait. Eventually the car mysteriously begins to roll off the tracks. Seemingly uphill! And if you dust the back of the car with talcum powder ahead of time, you can see the handprints of the spirit children who pushed the car safely off the tracks. Forget that no one can find newspaper records of a tragic school bus accident, or that the hill is an optical illusion that actually slants downwards, or that all that the talcum powder does is to reveal the latent handprints from every time you shut your trunk. Check, check, and triple check. All forgotten. Let’s buy some baby powder and head down to the Ghost Tracks!

It’s the weekend, and summer, so all the tourists and ghosts hunters and giddy teens were creating a logjam at the curve where the road crosses the tracks. I must have seemed quite the fool, what with my video camera facing the wrong direction. And as I rolled off two minutes of a tinsel Christmas wreath attached to a tree with a rosary and crucifix dangling in the center (the site of a true tragedy), I turned around and watched a young couple cover the trunk and back bumper of their Nissan with an entire plastic bottle of Johnson Baby Powder. They then drove across the tracks, made a u-turn and came back around, coming to a halt on the tracks. They shut off the engine and waited.

As I loaded my camera back into my truck, I noticed that they hadn’t moved. In fact, they were having to wave cars around them. Nothing was going to queer their experiment in spiritualism. I took a picture of them, there, waiting on the tracks, and I headed off in search of more roadside memorials.

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My last stop of the day was near my house. There’s a little spur of Roosevelt Avenue that crosses the Union Pacific tracks near Brackenridge High School. It’s a quiet neighborhood tucked between the busier streets of S. Presa and S.St. Marys. Quiet, except when the train thunders by.

There are crosses and wreaths attached to a fence. The shrine is well-tended.

As I was adjusting my tripod, a woman about thirty got out of a pickup and walked over to see what I was up to.

I explained I was working on an art project. That seemed to satisfy her. She explained that the crosses and wreaths were for her sister.

“See that big white house,” he said, pointing to the south. “My mom lives in the house behind it. She gets upset if anyone messes with this.” And older man — her father, I assumed — got out of the truck but the woman just waved he off. “Come back next week. We’ll have all new wreathes.” She nodded and headed back to the truck.

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I finally made it to Second Saturday. It’s something of a response to First Friday over at the South Flores neighborhood where several galleries are clustered around Joe Lopez’s Gallista Gallery and the building at 1906 S. Flores across the street.

I’d previously visited Flight Gallery and Salon Mijangos at 1906, but for some reason had never stopped off at Gallista.

Joe said the coffee shop (Cafe Gallo) was not currently in operation. It’s sad to see these little coffee houses disappear — like Jupiter Java apparently gone for good).

I’ve seen Xavier Garza’s work before. He has a whole room of his Lucha Libre paintings. Also this wall of iconic TV pop images framed onto little wooden TV sets, complete with rabbit ears and channel dials.

Xavier Garza\'s paintings

Check out his page on the Gallista Gallery site.

http://www.gallista.com/garza/

I also enjoyed the work of LA David. I’ve heard his name mentioned for some time, but had never seen his work or met the man. His studio / gallery is in a building behind the main building of Gallista. Last Saturday the place was lit by red Christmas tree lights. His colorful comic book style paintings were all weirdly color-shifted by the red light, which only made the work more psychedelic. I had to take his picture. As much as I love his art work, it helps to put it all in context of the man’s look. This is classic Chicano bohemian artist.

LA David

Central casting couldn’t do any better. And I mean that in the most respectful way possible.

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